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‘It’s getting there’: Rory McIlroy looking ahead as tossed club sums up collapse after stunning start on Saturday at The Open

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Rory McIlroy threatened to haul himself back into contention before a disappointing back nine on Saturday. Pic: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire.

Rory McIlroy threatened to haul himself back into contention before a disappointing back nine on Saturday. Pic: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire.

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SANDWICH, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland acknowledges the fans on the green of the sixth hole during Day Three of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 17, 2021 in Sandwich, England. (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

SANDWICH, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland acknowledges the fans on the green of the sixth hole during Day Three of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 17, 2021 in Sandwich, England. (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

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Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the eighteenth during day three of The Open at The Royal St George's Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent. Picture date: Saturday July 17, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the eighteenth during day three of The Open at The Royal St George's Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent. Picture date: Saturday July 17, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing

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Rory McIlroy threatened to haul himself back into contention before a disappointing back nine on Saturday. Pic: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire.

It was a round that promised so much and in the end delivered relatively little for Rory McIlroy at The Open Championship on Saturday morning.

After the world number 11 had carded back-to-back level pars on Thursday and Friday, it seemed like he had finally flicked a switch over his first nine holes of the weekend.

Five birdies and a solitary drop shot had McIlroy up to -4 for the week. It was a front nine that included three drained birdie putts from outside 10 feet, a couple of timely par saves and a stitched wedge. If he could keep up that pace after the turn, he might just have ended the day not too far off striking distance.

However, in the current phase of the Holywood star’s career, it’s rarely so simple.

Instead, a disappointing three over back nine put paid to any lingering hopes of what would have been a stunning comeback success, leaving McIlroy -1 for the week as he stepped off the course long before the leaders had even teed off.

A pulled par putt on 11 started the rot – the first of three dropped shots in a momentum-destroying five hole stretch. That concluded with a cruelly vicious lip-out on the 15th which added insult to the previous injuries.

Perhaps it was not any of those three bogeys, though, that summed up the collapse, but rather a pulled tee-shot on the par five 14th. Taking a three-iron to try and ensure accuracy, an ugly pull left McIlroy in trouble, coupled with a shout of ‘fore left’ and a tossed club.

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"That’s awful,” assessed the brutally honest Sky Sports commentator, before his co-comms added that it was “the frustration boiling over for Rory McIlroy.”

Hitting only half the fairways on offer is never going to signal a ‘go low’ but still in the bedding-in phase with new coach Phil Cowen, McIlroy was content to look at his round in a wider context.

 "Sort of a tale of two nines,” he said. “I played great on the front nine, hit some really good iron shots, converted some putts and really got it going.

“Then the back nine played tough. They're sort of tucking the pins away. They've stretched the golf course out to as long as it can play. I was hitting two-iron into the (par three) 11th hole, I missed a short putt there for par and it kind of killed the momentum I had.

"Not birdieing the par five and making another couple of bogeys on the way in, certainly it felt like a better round than one under par, but it was encouraging to see some of the golf that I played on that front nine.

“It's just a matter of trying to keep that going and try to turn those nine-hole stretches into 18-hole stretches, and then those 18-hole stretches into whole tournaments. It's getting there.”

It’s going to be another year without a major victory for Rory McIlroy. When the 2022 Masters rolls round, we’ll hear talk of almost eight years since his fourth major win. 

But he’s not superhuman and right now McIlroy is grinding his way back, hoping that one day soon he’ll hit the top again.


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